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What are your priorities?

Now that we’re on picnic and party season, setting priorities and work-life balance become more important than ever.

At picnics, the top priority is to have room on your paper plate for “the good stuff.” This might be the BBQ ribs, or grandma’s potato salad, or homemade peach cobbler. Here, the strategy is obvious. Depending on tastes, you might pass on the beet salad or the questionable casserole, to have room on your plate for your favorites. Some of these may be standbys you enjoy throughout the year; others are once a year specialties, and others may be one-time only delicacies.

Work vs. “Life”

Just as picnic offerings compete for plate room, summer brings an overabundance of opportunities competing for your time and attention. Kids are on summer vacation, and Disney World, and the beach, and the zoo, and the swimming pool are calling. The sun is shining and the golf course is green and tempting. And a cold drink on a warm night with a vibrant sunset might never be the same again.

On the other hand, there’s business. You may have quotas or targets to meet, regardless of the glorious sunset. For some businesses, summer is the high season, accounting for a half or more of your annual profit. Even if your summer business activity is level or seasonally low, there is the urgency to keep up production and charge into the fall. Setting priorities seems impossible.

Work and life priorities – you have a full and overflowing plate of each. So how do you decide? How can you get everything to fit onto one, well-balanced plate, with healthy, moderate helpings? How do you manage time?

Setting Priorities

  • First, be selective. Say “no” to the things that are expendable. Leave the generic white store-bought bread on the buffet to make room for the French pastries. Clean house less often. At work, identify and minimize low payoff activities. Re-think those tasks which take 80% of your time for a payoff probability of 20% or less. Spend time on those things that are important.
  • Second, choose quality over quantity. One hour of focused work activity can be far more productive that three hours of procrastination. Thirty uninterrupted minutes playing catch with your child can be more meaningful to you both than a three hour game at the ballpark, if you’re spending the time answering business calls.
  • Third, recognize once in a lifetime opportunities. The president of your corporation may ask for a special project. Or your child has the lead in the dance recital. Nothing is guaranteed, You may get another chance, or you may not. And you may choose to take a pass. That’s OK too, as long as you’ve made a thoughtful choice. Remember that not everything you have today will still be here tomorrow, but just because it’s offered does not mean you must accept.

Appreciate the overwhelming abundance of summer opportunities. Be selective. Less is more. Just as an overfilled plate is unhealthy and unappetizing, so too is an overfilled schedule. Set priorities, make room on your plate for the very best and create a summer to remember.